There’s a joke that says “if you remember the sixties, you weren’t really there.” I am a child of the sixties. I remember a teenager, rail thin, long-haired, scruffy, growing my first beard, a pilgrim on a magical mystery tour with Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, Siddhartha, and Steppenwolf as my companions and the Sermon on the Mount, Thoreau, Whitman, Lao Tzu, and the Upanishads as my guides.
I remember soaring eight miles high with the Byrds, tripping with the Chamber’s brothers “Time Has Come Today,” falling in love with the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” and drifting with Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.” Ah, the music of my life. The hymns of my youth inspiring my spiritual quest and living on in memory and imagination.
Though fifty years have passed since my teenage peregrinations at love ins, be ins, and acid tests, this is still the music of my life, and – as they counseled us in that wild yet innocent time, when a new world was on the horizon – flashbacks can return at any moment, and they do. Out of nowhere, I hear a melody in my mind: the Byrds, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Otis Redding, and I’m once more in that timeless place – no limits, like a rolling stone, with no direction home, but at home in the universe.
I’ve been excited about seeing “Echo in the Canyon” for a few months and when it finally came to Cape Cod, two baby boomer companions and I went on a musical journey, magical, mysterious, and memorable. To an earlier time, which is still the time of our lives, reminding us that life is full of promise and that maybe we can somehow get back to the Garden, despite the diabolical machinations of politicians and our own boomer complicity in global climate change and polarized politics.
Joni Mitchell once sung “songs of aging children” and the groups highlighted in “Echo in the Canyon” are surely aging children. It is both celebrative and sobering to see the artists of my youth as senior citizens, with receding hairlines, expanding waste lines, graying hair, gravel voices, and hip replacements. Forever young, rock can’t die, yet the years are catching up with us. The music of my life once and still vibrant and alive has come to announce my mortality as well as the holy adventure that joins heaven and earth in an eternal melody.
I couldn’t help but tap my fingers and whisper songs as I heard the soundtracks of my well-spent youth played by the original artists as well as a younger generation of Jakob Dylan, Fiona Apple, Beck, and their ensemble of companion musicians. In a snap of a finger, I’m back at Big Sur or Fillmore or Golden Gate Park or Berkeley or cruising with the men and women who were friends of the spirit, who still live on in my heart, Glenn and Al, Danny and Rosandra, Mary and Rosie, Diane and Lydia. Yes, we are older and slower and we still dream of a better life and a better world where tyrants are deposed and children dance.
As I watched this celebration of musical synergy, I remember a time of limitless possibility, novelty to match the novelty of the environment, catalytic companionship, and experimentation, fueled by jam sessions, psychedelics, and comradery. I was grateful and nostalgic for that earlier time. But also grieving lost innocence and idealism, the betrayal of hope, friends who died of substance abuse and on the killing fields of Nam, and the tragic distance between these dreams and the baby boomer complicity in environmental destruction and soulless capitalism.
Still, I feel an “echo in the canyon,” vibrating in my spirit. That child of the sixties spiritual quest, still alive in me, was inspired and fed by the music of that era, and in my heart there will always be a canyon, a quest, and the almost impossible, but resurrected, dream of reclaiming the vision of a healed earth and limitless possibility.
Bruce Epperly is a Cape Cod pastor and California dreamer, professor, spiritual adventurer, and author of over fifty books including “Become Fire: Guidepost for Interspiritual Pilgrims,” “The Mystic in You: Discovering a God-filled World,” and “Angels, Mysteries, and Miracles: A Progressive Vision.”